Photo: Bettina Strauss, The CW

When Supergirl returns this season, a new superhero is on the scene. Nia Nal (AKA Dreamer) joins the hero crew in National City. Actress Nicole Maines flexes her superpowers as TV’s first transgender hero.

“If I had had a trans superhero, someone who looks like me wearing a cape, [while] growing up, that would have changed the game,” the 21-year-old activist tells USA Today. “That would have been an entire new level of validation in myself to think that I can be a superhero!”

Dreamer will join the DEO crew beginning the first episode back airing on Sunday. Maines’ character Nia is inspired by the DC Comics character Nura Nal/Dream Girl and marks the first transgender superhero fighting crime on TV. Nia is introduced as a young reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media, working for Kara Danvers (Melissa Benoist). Her superhero identity Dreamer comes from the ability to “dream the future” and she’ll suit up in an ice-blue super suit later this season.

Show producers were committed to adding a transgender superhero into The CW’s DC universe, executive producer Robert Rovner explained to the news outlet. Nia’s identity as a transgender woman is part of her character’s origin story, executive producer Jessica Queller added. Her story is connected to “why and how she’s inherited these powers.” The season will show Nia, also an alien, coming to terms with her power, much like Kara in the first season. This year, the hero squad is back in National City for the season, with Kara showing an ambitious and awkward Nia the reporting and hero ropes.

Maines said Nia’s experience as an alien and as a transgender woman gives her a fresh perspective on the treatment of marginalized communities that is “very relevant to today.”

When casting the young hero, Rovner says they were looking for someone “who embodied the innocence, strength and intelligence of a young Kara, which was Nicole, who also happened to be a real-life superhero in our eyes.”

Prior to her Supergirl debut, Maines was notably the activist and winning litigant in the 2014 Maine Supreme Court case that give people the right to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, a big win for transgender rights, then played transgender teens in an episode of Royal Pains and the horror film Bit.

“What’s amazing with Nia is we have a trans woman who has personality and growth outside her trans-ness,” Maines says. “She’s a reporter, a superhero, a trans woman. She has a personal life. Oh, Nia! How do you do it all?”

Nia Nal/Dreamer makes her debut when Supergirl returns on Sunday at 8 p.m. on The CW.

h/t USAToday